25.4.13

Happily Living in a Smaller Home


Many people crave more space in their homes - an extra bedroom, a separate dining room or just bigger rooms. But in my experience when people move to bigger homes they tend to fill their extra space with new furniture and other possessions and then they find themselves back at square one feeling cramped again. We moved twice to gain more space and although we did gain square footage (through extra rooms and bigger rooms) we also seemed to become more disorganised and our clutter spread wider and further with each move.

For me making a home more spacious is simple. Simple furniture and decor, light window dressings such as blinds and a disciplined approach to possessions help to create a light, fresh and airy look. This is possible whether you live in a tiny one-bedroomed flat or a much bigger house. Any space can feel spacious if you don't overcrowd it. Dreaming of more space is something we all do at various points in our lives but I would question whether moving house is always the solution or even an option in today's economic climate. Obviously, a growing family needs adequate space but as home ownership and renting become more expensive many people will be forced to learn how to live successfully in a smaller space. 

I think It is possible to be happy in a small home but you do have to work at it and think creatively. We found downsizing tough - dealing with excess possessions was gruelling -  but now we have done it our smaller home is happy, light and feels spacious. Our days of wanting more space and new possessions, whilst at the same time holding onto unused items from the past, are behind us. In our smaller house our lack of clutter frees our time and energy and gives us more opportunity to enjoy the here and now. We haven't sorted all our clutter, some has moved with us, but we don't seem to be acquiring more and we are more aware of any that lingers. 

I'm not saying that living in a smaller home will make you happier but I do think the allure of a bigger home can be a disappointment once you have it. 

More thoughts on the subject of the size of UK homes and how to live happily in a small space can be found here in this very interesting article by the BBC News Magazine.



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14 comments :

  1. I've downsided and would not go back to living in a big house. Less cleaning, less space to fill with costly possessions and more money for the important things in life - like my motorhome, the ultimate in small space living.

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  2. Interesting to read! Thank you. I am thinking about this when I look around in my room ;-)

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  3. I look forward to the day we can downsize...my possessions are ready!! ;)

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  4. This is a subject I'm quite fascinated with; I also follow The Tiny House blog/scene because I find it so interesting. I'd quite happily live for longer periods of time on a boat, too, always fascinated by multi-functionality.
    My lifelong "default" home has been my granny's 1936 terraced, 3-bed home with front and back gardens. Everything is small and neat, from the people to the furniture - but I remind myself that that was the norm at the time, already a luxury to have an indoor bathroom when you came from a 2-bed terrace in a mining town with an outdoor loo... and a family of 12 living in it. And yet that little house has hosted so many parties and guests, with rooms let to others, even, that it has always been a bit of a tardis! The atmosphere is wonderful, even 75 years on (we're visiting soon and so it will be sleeping five again :))
    For a short while, I thought I wanted a big, rambling country house. Be careful what you wish for! An old house, the one we were able to rent had lots of old-fashioned quirks, good and bad, that made it labour-intensive to care for, plus a large garden we could never keep up with, as my husband's career took off and I was left home alone with three kids and a large dog to get on with it. And we accumulated a lot of stuff to fill it, accepting donations from all sides of furniture, clothing etc. for that country look and growing family. When everything collapsed for a while and we moved out, we got rid of 3060 kg of stuff (a very, large skip), a huge roomful (for the brocante) and a palette of electronics. The next house was modern and very cleverly arranged, another tardis, if you like, with an acre of storage in a basement warren that was like another apartment; the difference to English houses being the quality of the build! There is a law here that a bedroom should have at least one 4m wall so that two single beds can be put in end-to-end for children - I'm not sure this is still in force, having seen the newbuild flats behind us (which are anything but cheap - they look glamourous but seem poky and the quality is not as good as is usual in this country!). And in the 1770 house we live in, those rules seem to have been waived - the two separate bedrooms are approx. 3x3 m. It's probably the reason we even got this house, as the Swiss have got used to a lot of space and large furniture and won't consider living in rooms this small; we're frequently asked how we manage, which amazes me. It's much bigger than granny's house!
    It would be interesting to hear the Swedish take on this - as far as I'm aware, they are also used to very small living spaces, as when the population headed to the cities, there was a lot of quick, new building and it seems it was common for parents to sleep on a bed-settee in the living room and for there to be a kitchen bench that pulled out into a bed for the children - apparently there's a reason Ikea has clever furniture!! ;)
    (Sorry for hijacking your blog with my comment, but I'm not minimalist when it comes to subjects I'm enthusiastic about!! Ooops. I will stop there...)

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  5. I think your words are very true, whilst I love the look of bigger homes I think of all the extra cleaning and costs of heating! I do sometimes crave a separate sewing/craft space but because I share my crafty space with my family it means I'm there for them and also keep it tidier!
    I'm very fortunate in what I have, there are so many people without any space to call home! :) x

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  6. A great post and an interesting BBC article. Almost everyone I know wants more space, a different house, to move onwards, upwards. I think it is a sign of dissatisfaction with life - something is missing and people are trying to fill it. We have a small house, and it works just fine. I regularly declutter, although there is always more clutter than I would like, and everything has its place. And most importantly the children are happy here. Can't ask for more than that.

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  7. Years ago I used to spend a lot of time thinking about "my next house," and I must have assumed I would be "upwardly mobile" and my houses would keep getting bigger. Then in 2004, I moved into my current home and realized - this is it! There is no reason I need to move now, and this will probably be the last home I have, unless I choose to downsize. It is liberating - I never have to think about "Will I ever have room for this?" or "Can I keep that?" - I just know!

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  8. Nice post, interesting article. I have wish for a bigger house (more space, more rooms, bigger rooms) for long but tend now to be happy with what we have, even with some of our small rooms, sometimes wondering if we don't have too much space... I am just challenged by how to organize them beautifully... I am in no way a minimalist, but I have started several project which lead me (hopefully) to a simpler life. I have already decluttered a lot, gave away bags of clothes, different items, even furniture as yes, we tended to crowed our small rooms with way too much furniture... I have still lot of work to do, but every time I delutter I have this good feeling.... I think it is quite easy to get lost with " bigger, better"...

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  9. I love the way a smaller property is cheaper to run and quicker to clean but I have to confess to a craving for another bedroom. The option to have somewhere for family to stay (and they do stay very often!) and a little space for crafting and making is just so appealing, partly for the way it would de-clutter our downstairs living space. But i have found that living in a small house does make one very creative with living/storing arrangements. x

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  10. Hi Claire,
    This is an interesting post and I've enjoyed reading others comments too.
    I thought our current home was just a stepping stone but now I realize we will just have to continue to make it work with three growing boys.
    I certainly don't want to work all hours just to pay a larger mortgage....I would miss out on so much family time and quiet time ,both of which I cherish.
    Jacquie x

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  11. I am so happy to be living in a smaller home today than I used to live in. We lost over 1000 square feet when we moved to a different part of the country and I couldn't be happier about it. I found I was collecting things I didn't want or need just to fill up all the space. Now, I have to be more selective and I feel better about that.

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  12. Oh Claire I love hearing your thoughts on a subject that has become very much a priority in my life. Thanks for the inspiration you give that keeps me moving toward the goal of a smaller home.xxx

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  13. We moved from our 800-square-foot mobile home to a 1100 sq ft home with a basement, because everyone told us we *needed* more space if we were going to "have kids." The large house has only attracted clutter and tied us down. We are much happier living in 100 sq ft on the boat in the summer.

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  14. Hello! Was thinking of you last night! We affectionately call our home "the shoebox" but we love it and have no desire to play "keep up with the Joneses". We don't want to get a bigger place but realise that maybe one day we will have to get a new apartment with more outdoor space if we end up with two dogs. For us, location is really important and ours is in an amazing place that allows us to walk everywhere and use the outdoor public spaces as "our backyards". A concept that is more European than Australian/American, but we adore it.

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Thanks for reading and leaving your comments. Keep in touch xo